Little do most people know, the United States trucking industry is not doing so well. As a matter of fact, we currently have a “record-high” driver shortage.
Truck drivers are absolutely essential when it comes to the American economy. It sometimes gets overlooked, but truck drivers are responsible for moving nearly 70-percent of all the freight in the United States. They do this despite representing only four percent of the vehicles on the roads. Not only that, but approximately 80-percent of U.S. communities depend on trucks for the delivery of everyday goods like food, medicine, and more.
Not only are we losing truck drivers at a record pace, but the demand for food and supplies has also increased all over the county thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. That makes the current record shortage of 80,000 drivers nationwide all the more urgent.
Chris Spear, President, and CEO of the American Trucking Associations explained that it’s a 30-percent increase from when the pandemic first began. The industry faced a labor shortage of 61,500 drivers back then.
“That’s a pretty big spike,” Spear told CNN.
He definitely has a point. There are many drivers who are retiring and others who are dropping out of the industry altogether. It goes without saying, but without truck drivers, every other industry in the country would be severely impacted. It would force many people in their current jobs to work around the clock.
“24/7 operations — it’s an improvement,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter if it’s a port in LA or Long Beach or the last mile of delivery from a train to a warehouse in Wichita. You’re going to have to have a driver and a truck move that freight.”
Young Drivers Are the Key to Fixing Labor Shortages in the Trucking Industry
In Chris Spear’s mind, the key to fixing the trucking labor shortage is clear. The country needs to start investing in young drivers.
“I think that clearly is the most impactful thing that could be done right now to alleviate this problem,” he explained. “So next year, [we] are not going to be having this conversation because it will alleviate itself because we’re investing.”
But it’s not exactly that simple. Selling the idea of driving a truck for a living can be a tough sell to the younger generations. As you probably already know, commercial truck driving has a reputation for long hours and weeks away from home at a time. Not only that, but they also need to obtain a special license (CDL) to even be considered. And that can be expensive (tuition can cost up to $8,000). It sounds like Spear is lobbying to get some funding to help incentives younger drivers to get behind the wheel.